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Christopher Kelly's chili includes two secret ingredients. His wife calls it "the BEST chili." Submitted photo
Scott Steepleton, Editor
2:01 pm PDT September 18, 2020

Cancellation of the 2020 Malibu Chili Cook Off hit so many so hard.

The Labor Day community tradition features an array of activities for the entire family, including a midway, carnival rides, live music and the star attraction, chili.

Proceeds benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu, and partner youth organizations, so you can imagine when this year’s gathering was put “on hiatus” because of the pandemic, the loss added to an already tough year for an organization that does so much.

A new program from BGCM, Building Resilience In Our Community, provides individual and family support services in the comfort of home, via phone or virtually, addressing food, housing, employment, physical and mental health needs, and providing emotional support.

Joining BGCM as associate clinical social worker is Peggy Zherdev, who’s trained to work with families and parents, for both in-home and outpatient settings. For information, go to

Kelly McMahon-Kelly and her husband Christopher weren’t going to let the cook off cancellation go unnoticed.

“My husband makes the BEST chili!” she messaged on Facebook. “Can we submit a pic from what he makes this weekend in honor of the Chili Cook Off?”

Well, yeah.

I’m a sucker for chili. My earliest memory of it is Carroll Shelby's Original Texas Brand, which came in a little brown bag that we’d get at Safeway.

I’ve made steak chili, vegetarian chili, ground turkey chili, chili with beans and chili without beans. 

While writing for a paper in Ventura County decades ago, I was asked to serve as a judge of the chili cook off at the Ventura County Fair.

Of course I accepted.

The key to any good chili, as any good chili cook will tell you, is the “secret ingredient.” For some, that means a little bit of cornmeal, for others, it’s Coca-Cola. Some add cocoa powder. Some add dry sherry.

I once had chili where the secret ingredient was ghost pepper. Really? It was hot alright, but hot does not necessarily mean delicious.

Christopher’s starts with a vegetable medley that includes onion, celery, red and orange peppers, and zucchini.

For the protein, he uses ground beef.

If he stopped there, I’d gladly have a bowl.

But Christopher’s chili also has a secret ingredient. Make that two: beer and cinnamon.

His beer of choice is Budweiser.

And it doesn’t stop there. He serves it over white rice, and tops it with green onion, shredded cheddar cheese and a healthy dollop of sour cream.

It looks as delicious as Kelly says it tastes.

Thanks, Kelly, for reaching out.

Can’t wait to see Christopher’s mad chili skills on display in next year’s chili cook off.


Is there a “quarantine cooking” dish you’re especially proud of? I’d like to hear about it and share it with our readers. Send a picture and tell me what makes it special. My email is